Presence: The Best Holiday Present
By: Jeremy Richter, MBA, MA
Our brains are constantly thinking of things we need to accomplish. There are milestones and deadlines at work. At home, there are responsibilities, friends, and families that deserve our attention. Adding to the normal demands and stressors of life, the holiday season is right around the corner.
The holidays bring connection and joy but also a need for decorations, travel arrangements, and planning. Families strive to truly capitalize on their precious opportunity for leave. Military families with a loved one on deployment are considering how this year may feel a little off and are thinking about what they can do to still make it special.
Managing Demands During the Holidays
Thinking of the many demands upon us, it’s easy to see how the feeling of holiday cheer can be overtaken by unpleasant emotions such as anxiety. We can feel drained as we are trying to navigate a conversation or two while simultaneously taking care of some task. It’s in the depleted, attention-divided state that feeling overwhelmed can occur. While common, this doesn’t need to be the case. Instead of letting the holidays pass you by with a sense of overwhelm, give yourself the present of presence by setting boundaries. Here’s how.
- Identify priorities—When you identify what is most important to you, you can be more intentional about focusing your time, energy, and effort. Prioritize your activities and narrow your focus by considering what you value the most. Whether it’s cooking a special dish, arranging the décor just right, or meaningful conversations with someone, you can focus your time and attention where you most desire.
- Create boundaries—This may seem limiting at first, but boundaries actually create the opportunity to dedicate yourself fully to what you care about most. Setting boundaries means giving yourself permission to say no to events, certain traditions, or just the pressure to do it all. At times, this can be challenging because we may feel like we’re missing out: however, although we are not doing everything, we are able to get more out of the things we do.
- Be in the moment—Once you create boundaries, it will enable you to fully bring yourself to the moment. Your thoughts, energy, and attention are present in the moment; you have a sense of complete engagement in what you’re doing, and a greater sense of awareness in each precise activity. When having a conversation, you are truly listening, empathizing, and being aware of each other’s presence. Whether you agree or disagree on a particular topic, you seek to understand and appreciate that person.
The Value of Being Present
When we are mindful, life’s special moments come alive. Noticing the smirk someone gives. Savoring the flavor of each bite. Basking in the bustling of sounds around. Indulging in the pleasures and joys with abandon. This is where we connect, where we create the bonds and memories that last far longer than anyone’s awareness of how clean the house was that day, if we were five minutes late, or if we forgot that critical dish.
Understanding what we value most and leveraging boundaries to reserve our resources gives us the power to be present in the moments that matter. This is the most precious present we can give others…and ourselves.
Happy Present Holidays!
Jeremy Richter, MBA, MA
Senior Performance Coach at Magellan Federal
Jeremy has spent nearly a decade training military members to elevate their performance, resilience, and leadership. He has been an adjunct instructor and ran two small businesses. Publications include two books and a few peer-reviewed journal articles. Jeremy will be spending the holidays sending love virtually to his deployed wife and in person with family and friends in San Diego, CA.